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retirement unlikely Dublin veterans set to enlist for ninth All-Ireland medal in 2021 campaign


Philly McMahon. Photo: Sportsfile

Philly McMahon. Photo: Sportsfile

Philly McMahon. Photo: Sportsfile

Confirmation yesterday that the 2021 GAA inter-county season will begin on the last weekend in February puts a definitive time-frame on decisions over the futures of some of the most influential footballers of the decade.

Given the uniquely quick turnaround, however, the temptation for most to keep going will be strong.

For Dublin, the lure of a ninth All-Ireland medal, surpassing the five Kerry greats they matched on Saturday night, may prove too much for a couple of their squad to walk away from.

At 39, Stephen Cluxton is the longest-serving inter-county player in the game, having made his debut in 2001.

In an interview with RTÉ on Saturday night, he wouldn't be drawn on the subject of his future.

But given he was Footballer of the Year just 12 months ago and didn't concede a goal in this year's championship, retirement seems highly unlikely at this time.

Michael Darragh Macauley (34), 2013 Footballer of the Year, was part of the Dublin squad on Saturday but never came on - as was Kevin McManamon (33) who similarly was an unused substitute.

Like Cluxton, the pair now have eight Celtic Crosses. And despite their diminished game-time this year, remain hugely influential members of the squad.

As is Philly McMahon. The 33-year-old only appeared for the last minutes of the final, though he did have a more significant cameo against Cavan in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Cian O'Sullivan (32) wasn't part of the panel on Saturday but he is understood to have suffered an injury in the week before the match and was not fit for selection.

Paddy Andrews (32) and Rory O'Carroll (31) were both also non-playing members of the squad, having had sparse game-time this season.

Given the instability of the past 12 months, Dessie Farrell will be eager to hang on to as many of that group as possible after delivering a sixth Sam Maguire Cup in a row for Dublin in his first season as senior manager.

For Mayo, meanwhile, their fifth All-Ireland final loss in nine years will prompt a period of reflection for some of their most experienced players.

But similarly, with the league less than two months away before another condensed championship, turnover is unlikely to be huge.

Colm Boyle and Seamus O'Shea are now 34 and neither were part of Mayo's 26-man squad for Saturday night in Croke Park, although both were injured this year.


Boyle suffered an ACL injury back in February during a league match against Dublin in Castlebar and hasn't played since. He is understood to be nearing a return to full fitness and may well choose to finish his Mayo career on the pitch, rather than the treatment table.

Another of Mayo's defensive pillars of the last decade, Keith Higgins, was an unused substitute in Croke Park on Saturday. The Ballyhaunis man, who turns 36 in February, made just one championship appearance this year, as a second-half substitute in the Connacht final against Galway.

He started just one match all year, against Kerry in Round 5 of the league, as Eoghan McLaughlin and Oisín Mullin established themselves as first-choice defenders.

Tom Parsons (32) was also an unused substitute last Saturday, although having battled back from a horror knee injury in 2018 he may also decide to give it one more season.

Donal Vaughan (31) didn't play in any of Mayo's games this year, having struggled throughout the season with various knocks.

At 37, David Clarke is the oldest member of the Mayo squad, but having reclaimed the No 1 jersey from Robbie Hennelly this year, he is also likely to stay on in their quest for Sam.

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Online Editors